Author: Karen Bland



Ten years ago, Matt Kulig walked into a big box home improvement store. After 20 minutes of fruitless searching for a surge protector, asking three employees for help, and being led to three incorrect locations, his patience was spent and he was on the verge of retail rage.

Fortunately, Kulig was able to channel his frustration into innovation by co-founding Aisle411, a mobile indoor mapping and location platform. The serial entrepreneur (he’s now working on his 10th startup) recently shared his story with Executive MBA (EMBA) students at Olin.

The Aisle411 app allows retailers to offer their guests accurate navigation throughout a store. In addition to navigation, it shares information on specials and other helpful data to enhance a customer’s experience. The app also tracks customers’ behavior to provide store owners with valuable insights on shopping patterns.

Today, St. Louis-based Aisle411 serves over 14,000 stores across the globe including Walgreens, Supervalu and Schnucks. They are able to do this thanks to partnerships with key businesses such as Google and Philips.

The EMBA students were all ears when Kulig said, “one can start a company from anywhere – yes, even the Midwest.” Aisle411’s mission is to “Uber-fy” the shopping experience.

Kulig shared 8 entrepreneurial lessons with WashU’s EMBA students:

  1. People Matter. You should like the people you work with.
  2. Networking Matters. Even for the extroverts, you “gotta do it.”
  3. Serendipity Happens. There is no such thing as good luck. There is such thing as opportunity which generally occurs after ideas and people collide.
  4. Don’t Wait For Things To Happen. Make them happen.
  5. It’s All About Selling. When you are an entrepreneur, whether you like it or not, you are in sales. Everyone you talk to is a potential investor, customer or storyteller.
  6. Manage Risk. Do not fear it.
  7. Everything is Negotiable.
  8. Millions of Ideas Happen, But Few Come to Life. Not all entrepreneurs have an original idea. But most people don’t end up executing.

EMBA student Morgran Crena said, “What I took home from Matt Kulig’s talk was how he managed the ups and downs as Aisle411 grew. As a serial entrepreneur, he clearly has a passion for start-ups and his work in the community shows his dedication to help others. A couple times he invited students to speak with him afterwards to discuss their ideas. When I met with him, he gave practical advice about potential pitfalls and was encouraging.”

The Executive MBA program, as well as student-run organizations, benefit from guest speakers throughout the year who bring real-world journeys to the classroom and add an extra dimension to Olin’s research-based learning.




“When we met with members of the Council of Economic Advisers to the White House, Congressional staffers and Congressional members, it really impressed me that they need  input from industry.” That was one of many takeaways Patti Williams, a member of Olin’s Executive MBA (EMBA) cohort shared after their DC Residency – a deep dive into government regulations and policy – in Washington, DC with Olin partner, the Brookings Institution.

Williams who is Vice President and General Counsel of Peabody Energy completed the EMBA program in May of this year and was featured in a recent article on Olin’s unique DC Residency program published by the Poets & Quants for Executives website.

The four-day DC residency with Olin’s partner the Brookings Institution provides students the opportunity to talk face-to-face with government decision makers including legislators, administrators and power brokers who influence policy behind the scenes. During the residency, students complete two courses: Business and Government, and Business and Society. They engage with speakers from current and former members of Congress to US governors, White House advisors and administrators from organizations such as the Federal Reserve and the Office of Management and Budget.

Olin EMBA graduate, Chris Hawkins, Vice President of operations at Multiply, a St. Louis-based fan engagement platform, says the DC Residency provided an insider’s view of the complexity of the legislative process.

Hawkins told Poets & Quants, the DC Residency was a non-stop learning experience. “There wasn’t any time where you thought, ‘OK, this is where I’m going to step outside and take this call for work.’ You felt like you couldn’t miss anything.”  Hawkins added “It really addressed a hole I had as [business] related to public policy.”

According to Poets & Quants, “One of the biggest takeaways for many…participants was the importance and impact business leaders can have within society as a whole. [Patti Williams] left feeling more optimistic about the interactions between business, society, and government.”

Link to Poets & Quants article, “Olin Mixes Policy and Business in DC”